While the internet and social media have made health resources and advice even more accessible to the public than ever before, they have also become platforms for pharmaceutical companies, untrained health gurus and influencers, and dieting schemes to pressure consumers and spread misinformation about health. Specifically, gut health is a topic where there are many misconceptions. These myths, fads, and quick fixes can hurt your wallet and your microbiome.
Here are the top 6 gut health myths, as well as the facts! Let’s dive in!
Myth #1 – You need to take a supplement to have a healthy gut microbiome
False! Probiotic supplements are not recommended for the majority of digestive issues! They have not been shown to be beneficial, are costly, have a very temporary effect, and may actually cause damage. You can get the nutrition you need from everyday foods if you have a well balanced diet.
You should aim to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes in your diet. These will provide all of the essential pro and prebiotics, vitamins, and fiber you need. So, before you reach for that supplement, get in touch with your gastro doctor and discuss the benefits of a plant-based diet.
Myth #2 – You can’t change your gut microbiome
False! There are so many lifestyle habits you can change to improve your gut microbiome. While a healthy diet is the most critical, relaxation exercise, time spent in nature, and healthy sleep are also important for your gut health. Everyone is different (just like our guts!) and for the best results, you need to tailor treatment to your specific symptoms.
Remember, your gut health is influenced by many factors. A few that we commonly associate with our gut health include our diets, how we were delivered (cesarian or vaginally), medications, genetics, age, diseases, and stress.
Your diet and its effects on the gut microbiome has been studied extensively. It is a simple and effective way to modify your gut’s microbial composition. Likewise, recent studies are beginning to show that, like our diets, regular exercise and physical activity can also modify your microbiota composition by enhancing the number of beneficial microbes, increasing diversity, and improving the development of commensal bacteria.
Myth #3 – You should do cleanses
Sure! You know what the best gut cleanse is?
Yep, it’s that simple. Your body naturally and optimally detoxes when you nourish it properly with anti-inflammatory foods, lots of water, sleep, movement, mindfulness, and relaxation. I see so many fads out there like coffee enemas, juice cleanses, and supplement detoxes. They make me cringe! Why? I’m reminded of all the patients I’ve scoped and diagnosed with colitis or with elevated liver enzymes after taking non-evidenced based and potentially dangerous detoxing supplements. If you feel like something is wrong with your digestion, get checked out. A proper diagnosis that gets to the root of your issues is worth a thousand detoxes!
Your body detoxes naturally and on a daily basis through:
- Kidneys and our urine
- Skin and our sweat
- The digestive system and bowel movements
- Lungs and air exchange
- Lymphatic system
- The liver!
Myth #4 – You need to poop once a day
Nope! You don’t need to poop once a day. Everyone is different, and as long as you are regular (for you) and do not have uncomfortable side effects like bloating, you should be ok. In fact, it’s completely normal to have bowel movements that range from multiple times a day to multiple times a week.
Keep in mind you should not strain when you pass a bowel movement – it should flow easily and the poop should be well formed. If your poop is loose and not firm regularly, that’s cause for concern. Also, depending on what you eat, your poop can be all different shades of yellow, green, brown, even red if you eat beets or blue if you recently ate blue dye muffins. However, other colors, like white, are concerning for an underlying digestive issue. Black and red can also signify blood (digested and undigested) in your digestive tract so best to see your doctor.
Myth #5 – Gluten free is best
No! Gluten free does not mean healthy! In fact gluten free packaged foods are often full of chemical additives, refined sugar and fat which will wreak havoc on your gut microbiome and gut health.
Gluten free is a controversial topic, but for most healthy people, a strict gluten-free diet is not necessary. Studies show that gluten-containing whole grains are heart and gut beneficial. Avoiding them can actually decrease your microbiome diversity if you don’t have celiac disease and your microbiome was healthy to begin with! So, you could be creating a problem that didn’t previously exist! However, if your experience is one where you don’t feel well eating gluten-containing whole grains, get a full work up to get to the bottom of your issues.
Myth #6 – Medicine is your only answer
So False. Your gut microbiome can usually be healed with food and lifestyle changes. This is not to say that food and lifestyle are always the answer; sometimes, we need a helping hand from modern medicine. But many common gut issues can be resolved with just a few simple modifications to your lifestyle.
Imagine that during your next doctor’s appointment, your practitioner provides you with a roadmap to wellness. A customized blueprint based on your unique symptoms, lab reports, environment, lifestyle, and health goals. This incredible process is called lifestyle medicine, and it exists to help prevent chronic illness, and give you the tools to care for your body, mind and spirit to achieve lasting health and longevity and hopefully, help you avoid medicine.
In lifestyle medicine (what I practice), food is considered to be medicine. Each meal you eat can help heal your body or contribute to inflammation and tissue breakdown. A lifestyle medicine clinician can help you develop a more plant-based approach to health by helping you add more variety to your diet in a way that is balanced and conducive to good health and healing.
A healthy you starts with a healthy gut microbiome
A healthy gut microbiome is essential to your overall health and plays a huge role in every other aspect of your life. Don’t let the myths and propaganda get in the way of your health and wellbeing. To improve your microbiome and gut health, download my Gut Health Guide or reach out to set-up a virtual consultation. I offer consults worldwide!